Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lunch with the Jr. High Students

Today is my second day at the junior high school (the first was last week) and we just finished lunch which I find a kind of funny event. (I also eat lunch with the elementary students, but it rarely provides as much "this is so strange"-entertainment).

The lunch routine goes something like this: a few minutes before lunch time, the teachers set trays all over the desks near the counter with the food. Mine is one of those, so I'm always afraid of soup spilling on my computer (but it hasn't happened yet).

Anyways, I get assigned to putting milk on each tray (at least every time so far). The other teachers dish up and pass out the various entrees. Usually rice, soup of some sort and a couple of other things (like meat and potatoes and veggies). I also have to grab my chopsticks, because they are not provided with lunch.

Then I get to eat with the students. Last time, it was the third-year students (9th grade in American School years) and this time it was the first year students (7th graders). It is funny to hear my JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) at the High School refer to her juniors in high school as "second grade students." I always have to think about it for a second.

Eating with the students means waiting for the class to finish dishing up, and then saying "itadakimasu." (Said at the beginning of a meal when I'm eating with people - I've never said it when I'm eating alone :) ). After we say that, eating begins.

Last time, lunch included a little pack of dried fish and I think squid. I slowly ate these trying not to look at them so I could pretend it was pretzles and peanuts (had this sort of texture). This time the veggies were mixed with fish the size of bean sprouts (what I thought it was at first), heads, tails, everything. I had a hard time eating it because I had to eat it with chopsicks, which meant I had to look at it - the worst part. I've never been given anything like this at the elementary schools. Maybe it's just a matter of time or maybe it's something the elementary school students don't like as much, so they don't serve it. I'm really not sure which.

We usually eat with chopsticks and I eat at a regular (maybe slow) pace. I don't know that I'll ever be able to shovel food in the way these students do with chopsticks. They eat so fast! Last time I was the last person done (yeah, Mandie, I'm apparently still the slowest eater EVER). This time the only people slower than me were the boys who seem to think they're three people and eat portions that size. Here, at the junior high, the servings are HUGE (at the elementary school they're perfect). Last time I was unable to even finish the whole meal given to me (both because of time and I was full). This time I did finish, but barely.

After lunch, I try to add my dishes to the ones with the students. The other teacher always has to tell me that no, my dishes go with all the teachers' dishes in the teacher room. So we walk back there, and every time those dishes are put away and ready for the food delivery people to pick them up. So we have to go move all the boxes that the food comes in to get to the one that contains the dishes. It's kind of a funny process, because it's basically the same routine every time.

That's the process of Junior High school lunch which has had me laughing or disgusted both times (although usually on the inside, because I don't know how to explain the comedy in the whole thing)